October 1, 2008
Note: Patriot League student-athlete spotlight stories will feature the on- and off-field achievements in all sports throughout the 2008-09 season. Stories will be released on Wednesday of each week.
by Ashley Hicks, Patriot League Media and External Relations Assistant
It seems fitting that the position senior Jerry Dickinson plays on the Holy Cross men's soccer team is the same position he will likely play when his soccer career is over: defender.
An aspiring attorney, Dickinson has not only been tabbed a Patriot League Defensive Player of the Week and ECAC Defensive Player of the Week for his on-the-pitch activity, but he is also a Fulbright Scholar candidate because of his activism in the fields of social justice and multiculturalism as a student at Holy Cross. If awarded the Fulbright grant, Dickinson will travel to South Africa after he graduates in 2009, where he will study the after-effects of apartheid, a policy designed to keep the races separate and unequal, after growing up in a family where unity and diversity were embraced and encouraged from the beginning.
"I grew up in a very interesting family, a multiracial family," Dickinson began. "I was adopted at three months of age. There are 10 of us altogether, and my parents adopted eight. Out of the eight, we're all different races. I have black brothers and sisters and I have white brothers and sisters. It is a very rewarding thing for me, and I was blessed to be able to be adopted at such a young age and into such a great family."
At Holy Cross, Dickinson has been actively involved with the school newspaper as an opinion columnist, as well as a member of Student Government and the Black Student Union.
"I think that the family experience that I had in dealing with multiculturalism really sparked me to become involved with multicultural and social justice issues here at Holy Cross," he said. "So I really grew a passion for learning about social justice, and I carry that on at Holy Cross."
Dickinson, a Pittsburgh native, started playing soccer in the youth leagues when he was six or seven years old. He played club soccer at Beadling with a fellow Patriot League player, Lehigh's Adam Gazda. He said he's kept in touch with Gazda over the last four years, but playing against a former teammate has been an interesting experience.
"We talk every once in a while, especially when we play each other," he said. "It's definitely a bit different. It was a really different scenario since I had been his teammate. Now, he [is] more or less my enemy in some ways. But I'm proud to know that two of us from my club team are doing well in the Patriot League and representing western Pennsylvania and the Pittsburgh area in a good way."
A two-sport athlete at Shaler Area High School in football and soccer, Dickinson recognized early on that playing intercollegiate soccer would open more doors for him academically and athletically.
"I love the sport of soccer, and my opportunities to go to Division I schools were a lot better if I pursued soccer than if I pursued football," he said.
Dickinson in turn was pursued by Duquesne, Pittsburgh, Robert Morris, St. Lawrence and Navy, but credits Holy Cross Head Coach Elvis Comrie as a major factor in his selection of Holy Cross.
"I didn't realize the academics were so prestigious at Holy Cross until I got here," Dickinson said. "I visited in November 2004, and I think one of the biggest things was when I met Coach Comrie. Just meeting him and talking to him, and learning about his experiences. Everything seemed to relate really well, and I think that's continued throughout my career here at Holy Cross."
Dickinson's soccer career at Holy Cross has been up and down., but he gained valuable leadership experience along the way.
"I came in as a freshman, and I wasn't expecting to start," Dickinson began. "My freshman year I started every game, and I think that speaks a lot to the faith that Coach Comrie had in me as a young player. Sophomore year, Coach Comrie named me a captain, which is really a unique situation because I was still young and still learning to play at a high level. That was interesting, but we didn't have a very good season. I think I learned a lot, especially as a young leader and as a young captain. We learned so much about the adversity of having a bad season."
Last season, Holy Cross hosted the Patriot League Tournament, where they lost in the semifinals.
"We had a very young team, 10 freshmen or so who contributed to our team and helped bring this program back together. Coach Comrie always kept us motivated and kept our heads up, and over the years we've been able to bring it together."
After last season's disappointing finish, Dickinson believed that last spring's team trip overseas was a significant factor in Holy Cross getting off to a 5-2-2 start.
"Going to Barcelona last spring was probably one of the best things that could have happened," Dickinson said. "We grew closer as a team, which I think was very important for our mentality and our morale. I know in the off season we were lifting a lot more, we were working out a lot more to get ready for Barcelona, and I think that helped out as well."